Saturday, February 4, 2012

Don Hong-Oai: Painting Chinese Photographs

The boundaries between photography and art have oftentimes blurred to produce a sum greater than its parts, and this blog has featured many such intersections, from Karl Blossfeldt's plant portraits that come to life, to Liu Bolin's self-portraits in cityscapes, to Pablo Picasso's paintings of light. In keeping with the eastern theme of this week, today's post features an intersection that's even blurrier than before; some say these are paintings, others photographs, and some say that Don Hong-Oai has done the impossible by painting Chinese photographs and producing a true marriage between the two mediums.

These scenic artworks are the creations of Don Hong-Oai. Unfortunately, there is little information available on the artist and photographer as his works have only recently come to international attention. Don studied at a photography studio in Vietnam when he was a boy in the 1930s, learning the technicalities of the photographic medium there.

Don later fled to the USA in the late 1970s, but would return regularly to China and Vietnam to capture scenes for his artworks. It was also during these trips back to the East that he learned the painterly style of photography that is embodied in his photographs, a style that blurs photography and art into one medium.

If viewers didn't look closely enough, they might think that these were traditional Chinese paintings in the style of Shui-mo or free hand style painting, which might be compared the Western art movement of impressionism. The traditional subjects of mountains, rivers and trees are portrayed in Don's impressionistic photographs, but the artist adds modern touches to the otherwise age-old themes.

These half-photograph, half-artworks are done in monochromatic tones to add to the minimalistic feel. Finally, to create a sense of connection to the past, Don also adds Chinese calligraphy and signs his name with a red seal. The finished product feels like an hommage to the past with the technology of the future.

Don Hong-Oai, who passed away in 2004, doesn't have a website, but you can see more of his works here. There are also a few more of his Chinese photographs cum paintings here. If you would rather see how China was in the early years of photography, click over here.


Fang said...

So... are they photographs or painting? Or did he paint on top of photographs or what?

R said...

I love these fotos!

D4 said...

Wow these are stunning. It''s a pity there's so little on him, but maybe it's for the best. Let his work take you places all its own.

Zap McBlowfist said...

setting this as my wallpaper

Interwebs Fails said...

They're beautiful!

DWei said...

Oh wow, these are absolutely gorgeous.

G said...

wow some awesome work... I need to order these as prints for my wall

Kingmush said...

That is a beautiful picture!

A Heel in Mint said...

Nice pictures. Love the details and coloring in the first one.

MRanthrope said...

those photos of them carrying the water...makes me so glad I live in modern times, in an urban landscape with plumbing!

Pieter said...

That's beautiful...

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Incredible! I wonder how amazing these must look like in person.

Electric Addict said...

such beauty. truly stunning work

Banacek said...

These have a serene and slightly surreal feel to them. Alliteration!

Funny Pets said...


Shutterbug said...

I don't care what they call it, photos/paintings/art... these are gorgeous!

BDL Palash said...

I have got to say I did this for a school project
even before finding this trend online. I use two Picasso paintings from his
blue period. This has inspired me to post them later on, and maybe create some more. :)
I loved the Mondrian one by the way. Very clever!

Pictures to paintings
photos to paintings
photo to painting
picture to painting
painting from photo

BDL Palash said...

At the bottom of the post under the "Resources" heading
I listed that the sofas were from Plush Sofas (an Australian chain store).
Our living room is really tiny (it looks bigger in the photos!) so they are compact little two seaters.
We got them as floor stock so they were a great price.

Pictures to paintings
photos to paintings
photo to painting
picture to painting
painting from photo

BDL Palash said...

years ago I saw a series where
a photographer had found relatives of
people who posed for john singer sargent paintings and
he took photos of them that were reminiscent of the original pictures.
they were quite wonderful.

Pictures to paintings
photos to paintings
photo to painting
picture to painting
painting from photo

Cameron wieght said...

chinese painting, I am incredibly impressed with the latest blogs. Thanks ....

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